Of Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Challenges
Ranu Uniyal
THE EARTH SPINNER: A NOVEL by Anuradha Roy Hachette India, 2021, 223 pp., 599.00
July 2022, volume 46, No 7

Anuradha Roy is one writer who always takes you by surprise. Each of her books has a story with an intensity that is rare. Each of her books is a joy to read. The Earth Spinner is one such tale. Indian women’s writing in English has successfully moved from the world of domesticity to the more complex world of emotions, ambitions, landscapes. A world that makes you think. A world that draws your attention to differences that determine, decipher, and help us deconstruct the existential discourse. There are books that are about society, its traditions, and values. Roy has a voice that is full of concern. Sleeping on Jupiter with its uncanny title was about the life of a young girl, her growing up years in a seedy and sordid world of vacuous spiritualism smacking of violence against women and children. She very boldly wrote about memories of exploitation and injustice. ‘Like fungus that takes birth in warm and wet places, memories ooze from the crevices of your brain: spawned there, living and dying there, unrelated to anything in the world outside, the slime can coat everything until you can’t tell the real from the imagined’ (pp. 37-38, Sleeping on Jupiter).

In a similar vein the story is narrated by a young Sara in The Earth Spinner. It traverses different continents. At the root of all stories is the story of love and survival. Elango the potter is an amazing artist obsessed with the image of a horse in his dream. The story unfurls and we travel with Roy to a world as diverse as Kummarapet. Here ordinary lives face extraordinary challenges. And it is not just the world of human beings but a beautiful relationship between Chinna the dog and his master Elango that wrings your heart each time you see them together. The dog world is as or perhaps more sensitive to emotions linked with love and care. Chinna stands out as a force that binds the people and streets of Kummarapet. The Earth Spinner weaves tales of togetherness and longing, witchcraft and calligraphy, teacher and the taught, betrayal and guilt through its characters Elango and Zohra, the blind calligrapher and the wicked Akka, Mrs Reddy and the unfortunate woman searching for Tashi. It is interesting to see Roy write with amazing precision about the world of pottery. The gentle craft of a potter and the intricacy associated with the art of creation has been delineated with a softness that leaves you spellbound.

And underneath it all is the complexity that binds or divides people across gender, class, caste, and religious and racial boundaries. If the coming together of Zohra and Elango is marked with disruption in one part of this world, the race and gender inequality is equally disturbing in the West.

For Roy, like any sensitive artist, love is the only binding force. The gentle pit-patting of the seasons opens a world of people with and without emotions. Roy’s genius lies in her ability to weave motifs that strike you with their alluring simplicity as in ‘her collar bones jutted out from a neck as slender as the fruit on his moringa tree’ (p. 76). For her the natural, the human and the animal worlds speak with equal ease. Her concern lies with the poor and those on the margins who become victims of an unjust system. It is the insensate world of riots that divides communities and the erosion of the old yielding place to high rise multi-storeyed buildings that creates a bigger divide among societies and strikes an ominous warning. Environmental degradation is a dominant strain in Roy. Stories need to be written and questions need be asked.

Continue reading this review